COVID-19 has emerged as the most dire health crisis of our time and continues to profoundly affect patient access to healthcare. While Canada has taken strong action toward preventing the further spread of COVID-19, radiologists are concerned for patients who are anxiously awaiting lifesaving medical imaging procedures and the resilience of radiology given the backlog that has been exacerbated due to the pandemic.
Prior to the outbreak wait times for medical imaging in Canada far exceeded the acceptable 30-day standard. Many patients who were waiting 133 days for an MRI will now have to wait twice as long (Value of Radiology Report, Part II, 2019). The Canadian radiology community has responded in a strong, agile way. To help find a solution to this Canada-wide issue, the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) established a National Task Force led by Dr. Heidi Schmidt, Chief of Radiology, Joint Department of Medical Imaging, University Health Network, Sinai Health, Women's College Hospital (Toronto, ON) to tackle how radiology services can be improved now, while building system capacity and resilience for the future of diagnostic imaging in Canada.
"Since the inception of the pandemic, many non-essential procedures have been postponed, causing patients to live in uncertainty regarding their health and wellbeing, says Dr. Schmidt." She describes the situation as "Critical - it is imperative that we have a plan in place to address the mounting wait lists for diagnostic imaging in Canada. Many patients are suffering, and this is costing the economy billions in lost revenue and productivity. Without access to proper diagnosis and treatment, patient outcomes will continue to get worse, said Schmidt." It is projected that for 2022, wait times for imaging procedures will cost the economy $5 billion in lost GDP, due to patients who are unable to work (Value of Radiology Report, Part II, 2019).
Working with our partner organizations, the CAR Radiology Resilience Task Force has developed a comprehensive report, Radiology Resilience Now and Beyond offering a series of recommendations to build resilience in radiology. The goal is to provide guidance to radiologists, provincial health authorities and to work with the Federal government on a plan for the sustainability of radiology in a thoughtful and collaborative manner.
The CAR is calling on the federal government to ask for their support in rectifying this national crisis and is seeking a $1.5 billion investment in medical imaging equipment (over 5-years) as well as collaboration for a health human resources and infrastructure strategy including the use of new technologies and AI to support Canadians.
"Federal leadership is necessary to ensure that all provinces and territories receive the support they need to properly care for patients and to safeguard their health," said Schmidt. "As we enter into the second wave of the pandemic in Canada, it is imperative that medical imaging departments remain open and that we have a plan in place to ensure that Canadians are receiving the timely care they need and equitable access to medical imaging, concluded Schmidt."Back To Top
Canadian Association of Radiologists Works to Restore Timely Imaging During COVID. Appl Radiol.